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How to Get a Pardon in Pennsylvania

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Felons know how challenging it can be as they move forward in life with a felony on their record.

It seems like the conviction penalties follow them no matter what they do and affects all aspects of their life from finding a job, to obtaining housing, continuing their education, or obtaining a loan.

For felons who believe they deserve forgiveness for the offense, a pardon may offer hope.

This blog post will cover the process of applying for a pardon in Pennsylvania.

  • What is a Pardon?
  • Federal vs. State Pardon
  • Application Process in Pennsylvania
  • Effects of a Pardon
  • Supporting the Felon after the Pardon Decision


What is a Pardon?

A pardon is a term for forgiving for a particular crime without actually clearing a felony record.

Felons who have a criminal conviction for which they believe the sentence was too harsh or not deserved given the circumstances can apply for a pardon.

Felons who feel they have paid their debt to society and are entitled to having any further possible punishments for their crime withdrawn may wish to consider petitioning the government for a pardon.

A pardon is a form of clemency.

While a pardon does not erase the conviction, it goes on their criminal record that they have been legally forgiven for the crime and the restrictions imposed on a felon no longer apply.

This will allow them to have their right to vote and hold public office restored.

They will also be allowed to own a firearm.

Nevertheless, their felony conviction will still be part of the public record and able to be viewed.

Their felony conviction must still be reported in any situation inquiring about prior criminal history.

Federal vs. State Pardon

A pardon may be a federal or a state pardon depending on whether it is a federal or state offense.

For a federal pardon, a petition will go to the President of the United States.

For a state crime in Pennsylvania, the application will go to the State Board of Pardons for approval.

In Pennsylvania, there are two categories of felonies considered for a pardon.

The first is for minor felonies, for which the required waiting period is at least five years.

For major crimes, the time is at least ten years.

Application Process

In Pennsylvania, applying for a pardon is a lengthy and difficult process.

The first step is for felons to order their complete criminal record from the Pennsylvania State Police, which can take up to six months.

Then, it can take two to three months to gather all the necessary documentation, such as criminal complaints, affidavits, sentencing sheets, driving record, etc.

Complete information about all crimes for which felons are seeking a pardon must be listed with date of the crime, date of arrest, date of sentencing, and the sentence must be included.

A personal statement is recommended but not mandatory.

In it, felons must state the reason for seeking a pardon, and how the pardon will help them accomplish that.

They will need to provide evidence why it would be in the public’s best interest as well as their own to receive a pardon.

They may need documentation, such as a letter from appropriate government or licensing authorities.

They must have a clean criminal record after the time of the initial conviction.

Their personal background is extremely important.

The nature, seriousness, and length of time since their conviction along with their overall criminal record will be considered.

Any hardship they may be suffering as a result of their conviction is also important.

Involvement in community service or charitable activities will make a difference.

Felons must list any bankruptcies, tax or other financial obligations.

They must include any civil lawsuit of which they are a part.

Additionally, they must include every violation, including traffic offenses, which resulted in an arrest or conviction.

Before submitting any such application, it will be important to consult with an attorney for legal advice and assistance with the pardon application process.

Even though felons may be pardoned, the original offense can still be used against them if they commit another crime, and they will still be considered a repeat offender.

After filing the paperwork, a state parole officer will visit felons at their home in approximately two years.

At that time, the officer will determine if felons are now a ‘responsible, contributing member of society’ by questioning those residing there.

After that, the Board of Pardons can take at least a year to grant a hearing for those cases in which it believes there is reason to file for a pardon.

If a hearing is granted, felons will have 15 minutes to present their case, present character witnesses, explain the circumstances of the conviction, and describe how they have lived their life since being released from prison.

After the hearing, the Board votes to determine if a majority of the five-person Board believes they deserve a pardon.

If approved by the Board, the application will go to the governor to review and decide if a pardon will be granted.

Effects of a Pardon

If felons are successful in achieving a pardon, some things in their life will change.

While the conviction will remain on their record, they will no longer be subject to the penalties that typically go along with a felony record.

If a pardon is granted, the following rights will be restored:

  • The right to vote
  • The right to serve on a jury
  • The right to hold public office
  • The right to bear arms
  • The right to be admitted to a professional school
  • The right to take the Civil Service Examination
  • The right to have a passport
  • The right to hold certain licenses, such as a liquor license

Obtaining a pardon will make it easier to find a job.

A pardon will make a significant difference in re-establishing their standing in the community.

Also, they will have the satisfaction of knowing they were successful at having the penalties for a felony removed from their record.

Supporting the Felon after the Pardon Decision

For families of felons who have achieved a pardon in Pennsylvania, reinforce their efforts and the difficulty they faced in applying for and persisting with the lengthy pardon process.

If they can work hard enough to accomplish that, they can achieve so much more.

For families of felons who have been turned down for a pardon, continue to be there and be supportive.

Do not allow your loved one to get discouraged or give up.

They have lived with their criminal record and the consequences this long, and they can continue their quest for a better life even without a pardon.

Continue to encourage them to live life the right way and not return to their criminal behavior.

Don’t let them become one of the 2/3 who return to prison within the first two years following release.

So what do you think about this blog post about how to apply for a pardon in Pennsylvania?

Have you or someone you applied for a pardon in Pennsylvania?

What was that like and were they successful?

Please tell us in the comments below.

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